Sea Ray 280 Sundeck

The Sea Ray 280 Sundeck provides lots of on the water fun.

You'll be King of the Lake in Sea Ray's 280 Sundeck, thanks to sporty lines and comforts that set the standard for these broadshouldered runabouts. The 280 avoids the "soapdish" style of many deck boats, mating a super-wide 8-foot-10-inch beam and a deep-V running surface for amenity, looks and ride.

Impressive particulars include inventive seating. The aft lounge allows guests to face forward while conversing in the cockpit or face aft and enjoy the view astern, but it's the method by which this seating converts to a sun lounge that wows. Instead of cushioned fillers supported by hard-to-stow pillars, just undo the latch and swing the backrest open like the doors of an old West saloon. It's the same arrangement found aboard Sea Ray Yachts, such as the 54 Sundancer I recently tested (July, #2529). This seat's bottom also flips open, revealing one of the 280 Sundeck's massive stowage compartments - I'm talking folding bikes and deck chairs. And like those other hatches, a sturdy strut holds it open so you can gather gear with two hands.

Other features caught my eye. There's the recessed steering wheel, which provides more comfort while standing at the helm. Instead of a snap and strap, the split windshield's proprietary latch self-locks in the open position, preventing it from slamming closed. The helm and wet bar are topped with nonslip to keep gear in place. Notably, the wet bar also features a fiddle rail and room for the optional propane grill ($2,164) installed aboard my tester. Eyebrows on the courtesy lights provide illumination without glare. The head? This low-maintenance, fiberglass-lined space offers room in which to change your clothes.

Up and running, the 280 Sundeck delivers conservative handling - its wide beam doesn't allow the leaning hairpins you'd get from a true sport boat - yet it planes quickly, and its 51 mph top speed ensures you're never late for the on-water fun. ****

Contact: 800-772-6287****, www.searay.com